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William Lockridge, veteran D.C. community and education activist, dies at 63

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 12, 2011; 10:35 PM

Veteran D.C. community and education activist William Lockridge, known for his determination and chronic impatience to get things done, died Jan. 12 of respiratory failure at George Washington University Hospital.

The 63-year-old had been hospitalized since suffering a stroke at his home in Southeast Washington last week.

Mr. Lockridge spent more than 25 years in public and community service in wards 7 and 8, the areas of Northeast and Southeast Washington predominantly east of the Anacostia River. He represented Ward 8 on the D.C. State Board of Education.

"For decades he showed that he cared deeply for the District of Columbia and particularly for our children," said Mayor Vincent C. Gray in a statement.

A longtime resident of the area, Mr. Lockridge prided himself on meeting often with community residents and liked to say, "I listen, and I am accessible."

He was also seen as a man of contradictions, described in a 1988 Washington Post story as "an avenging angel to some, an unrepentant mischief-maker to others; one minute ready to slug a colleague, the next minute opening his home and his checkbook to a needy student."

"William Lockridge was an ordinary guy who did extraordinary things," said D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). "He fought for the children, the least, the last and the lost, and he would take on anybody, including myself, because he was a fighter."

Mr. Lockridge grew up in Chicago, graduated from Tennessee State University with a bachelor's degree in education and returned to Illinois, where he became a successful pharmaceutical salesman and entrepreneur. In 1968, he gave up the business world and joined the Free Chicago Movement, a black empowerment group.

In 1979, Mr. Lockridge moved to Washington, where he took on numerous public service roles, among them PTA president, advisory neighborhood commissioner, president of the Ward 8 Democrats and president of the Alabama Avenue Task Force.

He worked for D.C. public schools for more than 15 years as a teacher, teacher coordinator, wrestling coach, and issues and policies researcher before beginning a 10-year stint on the D.C. Board of Education in 1998. He served as vice president of that panel and as chairman of the finance and facilities committee.

He remained on the board after it was stripped of much of its power in 2007 and became the D.C. State Board of Education. He was serving as the Ward 8 representative at the time of his death.

Over the years, he helped develop the Master Facilities Plan, a guide for building new schools and renovating existing facilities, and helped lead the effort to secure $2.5 billion from the D.C. Council to fully fund the plan.

His public service tenure was marked by some controversy; he was years ago accused by administrators of Ballou High School of trying to micromanage them, and he once threatened to sue the school board because he said it had improperly hired a superintendent he opposed.

Mr. Lockridge was a member of the NAACP, the National School Boards Association, the Council of Urban Boards of Education and the Council of Black School Administrators. And he had completed coursework toward a real estate appraiser's license.

Mr. Lockridge was a member of Allen Chapel AME Church in Southeast Washington.

R. Calvin Lockridge, Mr. Lockridge's uncle, had also served on the D.C. school board.

Besides his uncle, survivors include his wife, Wanda Lockridge of Washington; two children, Joy and Stefan Lockridge; his mother, Pearl Chambers; a sister, Joy Majied; and four grandchildren.

Staff writer Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.

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